Sunday, December 21, 2014

Andy Stott's new album "Faith in Strangers" & West Coast Tour with Kowton: Jan 22 - 27

Andy Stott most of us know from his breakout album of 2011, "We Stay Together" on the UK's Modern Love imprint and as one of the highlights of Decibel Festival these past two years. First in 2012 alongside label-mates Demdike Stare's manifestation of all things Italian Giallo and French Fantastique in their live score to Jean Rollin's surrealist erotic-horror classic "La Vampire Neu" and this past summer in a second shared label showcase with the duo. Both occasions delivering some of the most assured, abstract, darkly rich post-techno being made on the planet. The physicality of their beats have hit a perfect equilibrium with some of the densest subterranean atmospheres being created in contemporary electronic music. These complimenting/contrasting poles are explored even more explicitly in their collaborative Millie & Andrea project via their take on traditions drawing from UK Bass music and Jungle. As a date in his current west coast tour Andy Stott solo next month at Neumos won't compare with such genre-bending showcases as those, but it's bound to be another of his corporeal/cerebral warping of dance music into a body-impacting spacial environment, a process detailed in his interview for FACT, "Tearing Up the Rulebook: Making Mistakes is the Most Exciting Thing You Can Do". Stott's previous full length, "Luxury Problems" making The Wire's 2012 Rewind and the essential British mag hosting a significant interview with him that same  year. His newest, "Faith in Strangers" released at the tail end of November was equally well received and charted with many of the institutions in the know as part of their year end wrap-ups. Boomkat, FACT Mag, The Quietus and Resident Advisor all enthusiastic in their significant praise.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Paul Thomas Anderson's new film "Inherent Vice" at Landmark Theatres: Dec 19 - Feb 5

The highly anticipated adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice" by Paul Thomas Anderson makes it's way to the Landmark Theatres chain after it's premier in this summer's New York Film Festival. Much of the festival coverage making it the focus of analytic pieces aiming more at the 'can't miss' nature of the two artists vision in a shared vector, titles like Los Angeles Times' "Inherent Vice' and the Contemporary Cult Hit" pretty much say it all. P.T. Anderson has gained no small amount of notoriety since his stepping away (or sideways) to the period-centric magic realist comedies of his Millennium films. Most notably with his aping Stanley Kubrick and Terrence Malick in "There Will Be Blood" and the more successful maturation seen in his tackling of Scientology and the post-War American psychological landscape in "The Master". Yet in no way does Anderson's cultural status even begin to approach the near-mythic held by one of contemporary literature's most cryptic and compelling figures, that of "Thomas Pynchon and the Myth of the Reclusive Author".

Both the author and his works can be impenetrable, and it's as though Anderson smartly recognizes Pynchon‎ can't really be squeezed into the constraints of cinema anyway, so why make a conventional narrative film? Instead we get a bounty of moment-to-moment depictions of life in slow-motion unfolding, running the gamut of dope fugue, epiphanous reveals, tense interrogations, paranoid immobility and love's confessional surrender. Pynchon’s novel set in 1970's California has been condensed with a good eye for the essentials amidst a typical abundance of content on offer in the book. Ditching a extended drug trip and Vegas subplot only mentioned in passing, while retaining the novel’s sociopolitical aura, sharp banter and convulsive hilarity. All of this through a diffuse atmosphere of memories, connections and recollections spinning a tapestry of intuition, paranoia and "Dream Horizons and Phantom Vibes of 1970 California", that may or may not accurately reflect the world and the (often eccentric) characters that populate it. Marking a return to the comedic spirit of his earlier work, he also branches into new territory, weaving a complex hierarchy of power, politics, television, wealth, corruption and influence underpinning the American dream. The effect is one where Anderson interpreting Pynchon watches like you would imagine the Coen Brothers' adapting Vonnegut, it's all "Noir Days of Sun, Los Angeles Smog and Marijuana Haze".

Alejandro Iñárritu's new film "Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" at Landmark Theatres Oct 24 - Jan 8 | SIFF Cinema: Dec 19 - 24 & Sundance Cinema: Jan 9 - 22

Finally seeing wider distribution throughout the Landmark Theatres chain, a weeklong run at SIFF Cinema and at Sundance the following month! Alejandro Iñárritu's "Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" pivots on a significant literary figure of the 20th Century, that of Raymond Carver. Rather than an adaptation, Iñárritu's film digests "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" as material for a cycle of internal returning and mirroring of the Carver story in the life of it's fictional protagonist, Riggan Thomson played by "Micheal Keaton as a Former Screen Star, Molting on Broadway". This relationship of the real-world literary work and it's fictional realization for the theatre (within the film) is representative of "Birdman" as a whole, and what many are calling a cinematic equivalent of 'breaking of the 4th wall'. It's more accurate to see this complex interweaving of fiction within fiction, and our observation of a film-as-fiction encapsulating them both as a permeable membrane in which realities pass and intermingle. Brilliantly "Iñárritu Turns ‘Birdman’ into Risk Central" by constructed a flexible space out of film itself, where the observer's relationship to content is fluid throughout. It is this extended state of constantly adjusting, being made to reassess where we stand in relation to the "reality" of what's on screen, that's one of the film's great joys.

Among it's other strengths is its humorous and unabashedly playful analysis of popular culture and higher art, of artist and celebrity, of enrichment and entertainment. The film itself acting again as a intermingling of all of the above, it's fluidity captured in a illusory single-shot structure "In 'Birdman,' Broadway's St. James Theatre plays itself" that's as tricky and fun as the concepts explored. "Birdman" is many things; a backstage farce, a satire of media influence and ubiquity, a portrait of celebrity and the finicky nature of pop culture status, a drama about squandered potential and importantly, it's about creative resurrection. It's in this spirit of being being impelled to redefine oneself at a crossroads, in a state of total crisis, that Riggan Thomson is transformed into something new. Negotiating a minefield of self-hatred and neediness, remorse and blind rage, all the while as the megalomania of his previous celebrity-self knocks at the door of his psyche, Keaton's realization of Riggan's self destruction and rebirth surpasses expectations and then some. A total sight to behold, and one of the most inventive, multifaceted, smart and outright fun works of film in many a year, it's no wonder Film Comment's review is titled, "A Wing and a Prayer: The Dazzling Technical Tour de Force from Alejandro G. Iñárritu".

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jean-Luc Godard’s new film "Goodbye to Language" 3-D at Seattle Cinerama: Jan 12

Almost without exception, the reviews from this year's Cannes premier made Jean-Luc Godard’s "Goodbye to Language" out to be a superlative cinema event. So rejoice then that next month, "Godard's 'Goodbye to Language' Adds Prime Dates in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Washington & Seattle", with a one night, single screening presented by Northwest Film Forum at the Seattle Cinerama. By degrees described as a reinvention of cinema itself, "Ah Dieu, puns Jean-Luc Dogard", a head-scratching provocation, "Baffling, Hilarious 'Goodbye to Language 3D' Will Mess with Your Eyes and Your Head" and a vibrant sensory assault, "Goodbye to Language: Beauty Will Be Convulsive or Not at All”. Almost without exception all of those reported from the festival found themselves struggling with interpretation of it's technique and narrative concerns, yet it was unanimously said "Sunny Cannes Gets Lightning: Godard’s ‘Goodbye to Language’ Enlivens Festival". Suggesting Godard’s Jury Prize winning experiment may not be quite so epoch-making as the Marcel Duchamp work it references, but it situates him firmly, almost 65 years since his first short, within the tradition of artistic provocateur even more than it recalls his beginnings.

The combined effect of bafflement and thrill seem to jostle for position in all of the above assessments, Jonathan Romney making this struggle with it's assaultive everything-at-once barrage of image and text as the focus of his Film of the Week review for Film Comment; "Godard, or his film, may ostensibly be saying goodbye to language, but if so, it’s as if the Word is being thrown a spectacular bender of a going-away party. Propositions, allusions, sounds, images rush on in wave after wave, each building a new layer on top of—or violently erasing—what’s immediately gone before. Trying to make any sense of it all, even in the most rudimentary or provisional way, is an anguish-inducing process. What’s more, as a critic you’re aware of the armies of commentators who appear to take Godardian complexity in their stride, and of the academic specialists among them: you feel gauche even noting that all this stuff is hard to take in, when you know that there’s someone out there just waiting to point out, “And of course, you failed to notice that the two-second burst of Sibelius signals Godard’s volte-face on his previous position vis-à-vis the Lacanian Real.” Put it this way: I love Goodbye to Language and I couldn’t have missed writing about it, but part of me wishes I’d taken an Ouija instead."

Romney writes; "That’s why I was relieved, and filled with admiration, when I read David Bordwell’s enthusiastic analysis on his website, "Say Hello to Goodbye to Language" in which he dares state something that’s often considered inadmissible in discussions of Godard. That is, not only is it hard to tell what’s going on in the film in terms of narrative, but it’s also hard to make sense of the relentless flood of text. Before embarking on a useful analysis of the film’s formal qualities, and exactly why they make the film so hard to read, Bordwell refers to Ted Fendt’s extensive list of texts and films quoted or alluded to, "Goodbye to Language": A Works Cited". Fendt himself admits that knowing Godard’s sources may only be “about as useful to ‘unlocking’ the films and videos as reading a heavily footnoted copy of The Waste Land.” Still, a blockage of understanding is surely essential to an understanding of a Godard work as it is when dealing with any hermetic or gnostic text: bafflement is the first necessary step to eventual (if endlessly deferred) enlightenment."

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's new film "Winter Sleep" at Grand Illusion Cinema: Jan 2 - 15

Finally here stateside and opening for a two week run at the Grand Illusion Cinema in early January! A director who has been on the rise and rise for some time, it came as no surprise to see Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Winter Sleep" receive this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes. Turkish cinema has been invigorated by this singular figure over the past decade, one who made his vision a heady mix of the plumbing of the personal, spiritual and political set against stark, expansive natural beauty. Ceylan's telling of increasingly nuanced moral tales reached a peak with 2012's atypical police procedural "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" one that watched like a twofold quest, "One Search for a Body, Another for Meaning". Returning to similar territory, this darkness of winter Turkish stove-side epic is full of "Philosophic Musings Spun in Chekhovian Fashion" focusing on the sedentary years in the life of a former actor turned hotel-keeper reconciling himself to old age.

The Existentialists would have a field day with Ceylan's depiction of a man putting on the act of trying to please everyone, maintaining a tenuous grip on his own dignity and all the while using his intellectual distance to undermine those close to him. Much of the film's character is inspired by the theatre and filled with moralistic digressions explored explicitly in long, stagey discussions. No surprise then to see recognition given to Chekhov, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky and Voltaire in the roll of the end credits. A convincing portrait of a vain, deluded, yet intensely charming man in decline, the structure is wide-ranging, with an undertow of several concurrent subplots. But for all it's engagement of questions of conscience, social responsibility, class, authority and self-deception, "Winter Sleep" is a drama of words rather action. We are given several striking outdoor sequences in the otherworldly beauty of the surrounding Cappadocian Steppes, these like breaths of air in the claustrophobic intellectual smothering that frame them. The vast majority of Ceylan's film takes place in the stone cave-like rooms of the hotel where our protagonist has essentially dug himself a shelter from the world. Surrounded by literature, criticism and philosophy, his only constant with the community outside his door through the pulpit of the editorial column he writes for the local paper, it is a "Rocky Kingdom of a Man With Petty Cares" in a hibernating sleepwalk through the final acts of his life.